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TWU can’t tell LGBT students to find a seat elsewhere, says lawyer

Latest Trinity Western University hearing wraps up in BC Court of Appeal

The sculpted TWU hedge greets students and visitors as they enter Trinity Western University’s campus in Langley, BC. Credit: Ross Johnson/Daily Xtra

Telling LGBT students there are plenty of law-school seats elsewhere if they don’t like Trinity Western University’s admission requirements is not right, the lawyer for the BC law society told the appeal court June 3, 2016.

That’s like telling Rosa Parks there are plenty of seats at the back of the bus, Peter Gall said.

Gall was concluding his arguments on the last day of hearings in the law society’s appeal of last year’s ruling forcing it to reinstate its approval for TWU.

For admission and ongoing attendance, TWU requires all students adhere to its community covenant, which forbids sex outside heterosexual marriage.

The law society had to consider the covenant’s impact and its potential to exclude students from TWU’s proposed law school, Gall told the five-judge panel.

The law society initially agreed to accredit TWU in April 2014, then rescinded its acceptance six months later after an outcry from its members.

Whether the society maintained its approval or rescinded it, there was going to be a problem, Gall said. But both choices were legal under BC’s Legal Profession Act, he told the court.

And the society did nothing wrong by putting the decision to its members in a referendum, he added.

In December 2015, the BC Supreme Court ruled the law society was wrong to be swayed by its members’ vote and ordered it to uphold its original decision to accept the proposed law school’s future graduates.

The law society appealed. The three-day appeal hearing concluded today. The judges reserved their decision.

“The crux of the issue is the meaning of freedom,” TWU spokesperson Amy Robertson tells Daily Xtra.

Freedom of conscience and religion affects everyone, she says. Canadians pride themselves on diversity, and value pluralism and tolerance.

“There isn’t really tolerance if there isn’t some difficulty going on,” she says. “We need to live together peacefully.”